Where to shop?

Thessaloniki is arguably Greece’s best-dressed city. You cannot but notice it on thoroughfares like Tsimiski, Proxenou Koromila and Mitropoleos – including the side streets hemmed in between where the ‘sacred ritual’ of shopping is conducted. Chic and imaginative in terms of their apparel choices, Thessalonians stand not only out for their careful attention to detail, but also for the sheer amount of time they spend looking, trying on and selecting the right look – affirming their reputation as champions of the style game.

The layout of the downtown shopping district is especially conducive as it brings together an array of styles and new trends within a relatively small area. From the multinational brands found in large department stores to designers’ studios and small boutiques, the city center is nothing short of a shopaholic’s paradise! For a crash course and to keep your bearings, start at Tsimiski Street, where you will find everything in global apparel, footwear and beauty brands, both casual and formal.

The Attica department store at No 48-50 houses popular brands in men’s and women’s fashion, with exclusive shop-in-shop outlets. Likewise, Intervista at No 71 has been a staple of timeless looks from leading fashion houses for the past 50 years. The trifecta on Tsimiski is completed with an obligatory stop at Notos Galleries at No 24 for an array of international brands and products. Check out the latest collection for men at Navy & Green, beautifully crafted and designed, both at Notos Galleries and Attica. And for the ladies, a stop at Hondos Center on 9 Aristotelous Square is a must. The company is synonymous with all things beauty-related, from cosmetics and fragrances to apparel.

Max Mara at 54 Mitropoleos Street, a parallel road a little further down towards the sea, boasts classic selections for the femme fatale. Apart from its namesake brand, it also carries Marella and Marina Rinaldi, as well as selected pieces from international fashion houses. The philosophy here is different from Tsimiski and focuses on a small-is-beautiful approach, with cozy boutiques. Heading closer to the sea, the Proxenou Koromila and Praxitelous crossroads deserves careful exploration, especially if you’re looking for original pieces by local designers, such as Rania Xanthopoulou who remains one of the most sought-after local names in women’s fashion since launching her first collection in the 1980s. Her studio is at No 41, Proxenou Koromila Street, amid dozens of small stores specializing in the boho look – in keeping with the street’s decades-long history as a bastion of Thessaloniki’s bohemian and rock n’ roll side. At Margo Fashion Boutique at No 42 you will find the creations of Pella Christina Papachristou, the hottest new name and the ultra-talented designer of the PCP collection, whose leggings in particular are a must for every Thessaloniki woman exploring the urban girl look.

© Nena Dimitriou

All of the above-mentioned streets are lined with cafés and bars, since another unwritten tradition is to combine shopping outings with stops for a quick espresso or a slow aperitif. Most importantly, don’t forget the chill-out rule that pervades the life philosophy in Thessaloniki, so take your time and enjoy!

Where to eat ?

HISTORY ON THE TABLE

Trends may come and go, establishments may open or close following the tide of opinion, but Thessaloniki’s cuisine has always reflected the city’s multiethnic and inclusive history.

As the second city of both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, it accommodated conquerors and traders, settlers and itinerant merchants, from Sephardic Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition to Armenian and Arab traders, Slavs and Greeks from poorer rural areas, refugees from Asia Minor, Greeks from the Black Sea and other migrants from everywhere in the Balkans.

Each of these groups has added their own ingredients, recipes and influences to the city’s gastronomic melting pot.

Recommended restaurants:

BANTIS

33 Panaghias Faneromenis • Tel. (+30) 2310.510.355

A ball of dough is not the kind of thing one generally looks at with tenderness, but there are exceptions; Philippos Bantis certainly does just that at the bougatsa pastry shop he inherited from his father. The small establishment he now runs with his wife has been at the same location since 1969, producing recipes handed down from his grandfather, who came to Thessaloniki as a refugee from Cappadocia.

Here, Bantis shows us how he rolls that dough ball until it’s almost transparently thin in order to produce the 24 sheets needed for each bougatsa pie.

In recent years, Philippos has been experimenting with old recipes as well, such as a bougatsa pie with no filling. This recipe hails from Byzantine times and consists of butter-smeared layers of filo folded into a pocket and baked so that it’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Each pie (stuffed or not) costs around €1.70.

BRIZOLA

18 Nikolaou Mantzarou & Kotta Roulia • Tel. (+30) 2310.532.800

Brizola is fast gaining a reputation as a high-end steak house. It is located in the Sfageia meat-packing district and looks it from the outside. On the inside, however, you can see the deft hand of a designer at work; the interior honors the building’s industrial character while adding an appropriate degree of elegance, with paintings, plush seating and atmospheric lighting against distressed walls.

The menu is equally well balanced, if a bit simpler: salads, appetizers, burgers and two or three meat choices.

CHAROUPI

4 Doxis, Ladadika • Tel. (+30) 2310. 526.262

Charoupi serves Cretan cuisine, which is under-represented in Thessaloniki. Chef Manolis Papoutsakis imports amazing products from his native island and prepares them simply and beautifully. The space is modern, with a blend of wood and metal, and the hospitality traditional.

CLOCHARD

4 Proxenou Koromila • Tel. (+30) 2310.239.805

This restaurant has been a symbol of urban dining for more than three decades and was once where the city’s businessmen would take their lunch breaks or gather for dinner in a setting of velvet seats, thick drapes and linen tablecloths. The décor has now changed – a ceiling piece gives the impression of eating under a star-studded sky – and the restaurant serves an evolved Mediterranean cuisine that has helped keep it at the top of residents’ and visitors’ preference lists.

DIAVASI

13 Pavlou Mela • Tel. (+30) 2310.220.596

Relaunched as a restaurant four years ago after a radical makeover, Diavasi began life in 1977 as a simple grill house run by the Handaki family. Today, they continue to prepare hundreds of their famous spicy soutzoukakia (meat patties), which arrive on large platters at nearly every table.

The pork gyro is made entirely in-house and is beautifully grilled; the fried potatoes are fresh and hand-cut; the liver is a good, if somewhat unusual menu item; and the Russian salad, from an old family recipe, accompanies most of the dishes. Only bottled Greek wine is available. The restaurant also delivers.

MAITR & MARGARITA

Verias & Irodou Attikou • Tel. (+30) 2314.007.586

This restaurant is located on revitalized Verias Street and boasts stylish touches that you won’t find in any other Greek cuisine bistro. The owners are friends from Komotini; they share their time between the kitchen and the dining room. Sharing is also the food philosophy here, and the dishes that are passed around are primarily Mediterranean, with good quality ingredients treated with proper cooking techniques and flavored with delicious sauces.

MOURGA

12 Christopoulou • Tel. (+30) 2310.268.826

Far away from the waterfront and its strip of seafood restaurants, this small urban kafeneio serves some of the best fish and seafoodin town. An unassuming establishment, it implements a first-come first-served system that involves having only one menu, which is passed from diner to diner. This can be somewhat off-putting to newcomers but has been accepted by the many regulars who come here for the great food.

If you don’t mind waiting your turn, you’re in for a surprise, as the menu changes every day, depending on what the owner-chef finds at the fish market. The vegetables are seasonal and largely organic. There isn’t any standard dish to recommend, but we do guarantee that anything you order will be good, flavorful and made with care.

NEA FOLIA

4 Aristomenous • Tel. (+30) 2310.960.383

This place started out as one of the city’s hidden tavernas, serving blue-collar workers simple, hearty fare and lots of wine after work. Today, it is a restaurant with a passion for the local cuisine that has helped to make Thessaloniki’s food scene so special. Nea Folia’s friendly owners cook with heart, delivering traditional dishes with tons of flavor.

POSELLI PIZZA

2 Vilara & Andrea Syngrou • Tel. (+30) 2314.019.687

In the five short years since it opened, Poselli Pizza has made Thessalonians see pizza in a whole new light. Run by five young entrepreneurs – who also own La Doze, one of the city’s best cocktail-bar/dance clubs, right next door – Poselli’s is an excellent example of an establishment that serves high-quality street food, with amazing value for money.

© Nena Dimitriou